living in the gray

image courtesy of flickr.com/creative commons

when it comes to my history with the church, barely survived the experience. people were nice to me. i had friends. i learned a lot. sounds awful, doesn’t it?

but the reality is that i was a good church boy, but not necessarily a good boy.

i thought i knew all the right things to do, and on the surface, i appeared to do them. but inside, i was just going through the motions.

why the disconnect? because the church can be a fantasy land.

there are days when i walk out of the sanctuary or come home from retreat ready to conquer the world. the same feeling i get when i walk out of a really, great superhero action movie. bring on the world, i’m ready.

all those sermon points that have the same letter at the beginning of each one (those speakers are so clever) become my life plan that i will implement and make the world—and me—better, stronger, and ready to tackle the forces of evil both inside and outside me.

but find me a day or two later, and i honestly couldn’t tell you what the three p’s of victorious living are, or what the word preposterous has to do with anything.

it’s not that what the pastor, speaker, or teacher said wasn’t true, it’s just that, well, i live in the gray of life.

for some reason, the nice, neat little analogies don’t work for me. the sermon illustrations that should be so powerful, i recognize as last month’s forwarded email from my grandmother. The inspirational testimony given by someone delivered from the jaws of death becomes nothing more in my head than “good for them.”

the reason is that life is hard. it’s so much harder than the alliteration makes it out to be. life doesn’t always follow the sequential order of my sermon notes. and i find myself making more of a mess when i try to live them out.

there are moments of hope.

a person says a rude remark about someone, and instead of joining in, i walk away.
a need makes itself known, and instead of walking away and leaving that person to work it out on his own, i help.
an act of self-sacrifice becomes more than something on my “to do” list, and i actually set aside my time, my agenda, my plans and allow the need of another person affect my life.

i handle life like i should. Like i know i’m supposed to. like i think Jesus would (and i don’t even wear a bracelet).
i act the way a Christian is supposed to, the way i think God wants me to.
and it feels really good. i did it! i have this Christian thing down.

but then something happens. the sludge of my heart rises to the surface, and i’m painfully aware that my actions were simply that—actions.
the unkind words can’t seem to escape my brain. the need someone has seems well, too needy. an act of self-sacrifice seems like i had to sacrifice too much, requiring more of me than i was willing to give.
i was doing a good thing, but completely clueless to reality.

living out our faith is a struggle. i know it’s not impossible. God says that He gives us the Holy Spirit to help us live out our faith in Jesus Christ, but it just seems like so many times i get in the way.

i align my mind with God and do the things i know i should do. But i’m not just all mind, sometimes my will and emotions are slow to fall in place.

that’s where life gets gray. where the things i ought to do, i just can’t seem to do. or i start to do and realize this isn’t meeting my expectations.

it’s not truth that is gray. i believe truth is truth—and the God and His Word are the ultimate guidelines by which all other truth is measured.

no, it’s me that’s gray. i’m not lukewarm. i’m not passive in my faith. i really want to follow Jesus. it’s just when that desire meets reality it gets messy, cloudy. it’s not longer black and white, it’s gray.

there are moments when i love God, and hate people, when i am caught between honesty and hypocrisy.

life isn’t as simple as it seems in church, and because we don’t acknowledge that, sometimes our faith has little chance of surviving outside its walls.

contents on this site are © 2011 tim walker. all rights reserved. for permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.

One Response

  1. Tim, thank you for a very honest and real depiction of the Christian life-walk. Paul wrote similarly when he stated that what he desires to do he does not do and what he does not want to do he does. He concludes with emphasis: Who will deliver me from this body of death – but thanks be to God through Jesus Christ!

    I work in a ‘big-box’ retail environment and it is a ‘dark’ world. I found that it became all too easy to become gray in speech, thought and action. I start each day seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness – I seek to carry His light into the darkness of the world. I seek to put on the ‘teflon coated kevlar’ full armor of God.

    I was convicted the other day when one of my employees who enjoys being on the ‘dark side’ commented that I had become gray. It became an opportunity for me to share my faith walk struggle and I committed to him that I would become more of a light. I even asked him to hold me accountable to being light. He assured me he would. This is how God uses our frailty to draw others to Himself by His Holy Spirit.

    Life is more than church and religion. Life is a real-time relationship first with the triune God and then with all other relationship contexts: work, family, self, church, government, and world.

    Hang in there, brother. You have described the sanctification process – perfection will come at the transition from this body of death into eternal life. You are in good company with men such as Peter and Paul and all present Christian brothers and sisters who comprise the Church Body of Christ.

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